News Tip: Weakening the WTO Creates a ‘Legal and Political Crisis,’ Expert Says

The Trump administration has blocked judicial appointments to the World Trade Organization’s appellate body. As a result, the World Trade Organization’s main body for settling international trade disputes effectively will no longer hear cases, starting today.

  • Quotes:
    “The United States is creating a legal and political crisis at the World Trade Organization by blocking the appointment of judges,” says Rachel Brewster, professor of international economic law at Duke University School of Law.

    “Beginning today, this ‘death by asphyxiation’ (as one former member of the WTO phrased it) will undermine the rule of law by preventing the legal resolution of trade disputes. This action increases the risk of trade wars, not only for the United States but all WTO countries.” 

    “The establishment of a binding legal system for global trade rules was the crowning achievement of American economic diplomacy following the end of the Cold War. The system allows the United States to use its economic power legitimately and effectively to enforce trade rules. The United States undoubtedly benefits from this system, and the system’s imminent demise is a net loss for American economic leverage in the short and long term. The Trump administration’s actions will hurt American commercial interests as international trade rules become less certain and predictable.” 

    “The WTO crisis casts a shadow over the future of international trade relations. Other emerging powers, such as China or India, may view the crisis as an opportunity to remake international trade rules to fit their preferred policies on issues such as intellectual property and subsidies.”


  • Bio:
    Rachel Brewster, a professor of law at Duke University's School of Law, specializes in international economic law and international dispute settlement and has served as legal counsel in the Office of the United States Trade Representative. She can discuss World Trade Organization law, anti-corruption law (including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the OECD Anti-Bribery Treaty), and international relations theory.  


  • For additional comment, contact Rachel Brewster at:

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